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Shell wins two more permits for planned Arctic drilling campaign

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Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 19.31.15Shell wins two more permits for planned Arctic drilling campaign

By Jennifer A. Dlouhy: 13 June 2015

WASHINGTON — Shell has nabbed two more critical government approvals for its planned exploratory oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean this summer.

The latest authorizations came from the Environmental Protection Agency, which is allowing Shell to discharge wastewater from its contracted drilling rigs, the Transocean Polar Pioneer and the Noble Discoverer, into the Chukchi Sea northwest of Alaska.

The fluids that could be flow from the rigs, under the EPA’s authorization, include water-based drilling fluids, cuttings from inside the well and wastewater produced on board.

During Shell’s last Arctic drilling campaign, in 2012, the company did not discharge water-based drilling muds into the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska, under an agreement with Inupiats who live on the North Slope. However, it did send fluids from the Discoverer into the neighboring Chukchi Sea.

The approval means Shell has just four remaining federal permits that are essential for it to begin drilling in the Chukchi again, as soon as next month.

That includes two “incidental harassment” authorizations allowing Shell to disturb marine and animal life in the region. Also outstanding are two drilling permits, now under review at the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

Shell spokesman Curtis Smith called the EPA authorizations “welcome news that means we’re that much closer to exploring our Chukchi leases in the weeks ahead.”

In 2012, the EPA also oversaw air pollution from Shell’s Arctic drilling rigs and support vessels, but Congress shifted that responsibility to the Interior Department.

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